Set to Song
Phil Shapiro has set themail to music. Even if you haven’t already
been humming along while you read themail, you’ll enjoy Phil’s folk
singer riff on your messages, and after you hear it you’ll never think
of these biweekly mailings the same way again. See Phil’s first
message below for the address of the clip.
I wonder if Phil would like to set the mayor’s DC budget proposal
to music next. As the chorus, I’d suggest: “Whatever you want, we’ll
fund it; whatever you dream of, we’ll fund it. We have pots of money,
and surpluses last forever, honey.”
Meanwhile, Ted Knutson is asking whether anyone is interested in a
get-together of themail members. Many, many years ago, in the dark ages
of Internet history when themail was still called DCStory, there were a
few informal meetings, usually at a bar on an early weekday evening. If
you’re interested in reviving them, let me know.
Earlier this month, this article appeared in the City Paper (http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/special/truckstop0311.html):
“On Feb. 10, Capitol Hill resident William McLain was walking toward
his home at the intersection of 1st Street and North Carolina Avenue SE
when he saw a white van from Unity Construction and Management Services
and a crew of about a half-dozen workers on the sidewalk. They had
uncovered a manhole. One of the workers told McLain that they had a
contract to set up cameras throughout Capitol Hill for the U.S. Capitol
Police and that they were presently installing the preliminary cables
for four 360-degree cameras at the intersection in front of McLain’s
Then, lo and behold, just this week a surveillance camera appeared at
the end of our block, mounted to a light pole at the intersection of 3rd
and C Streets, Southeast. This particular corner is 100 percent
residential, and is not located on what I would call major
thoroughfares. It does not a rate a traffic signal, for example. It is a
block, and a long one at that, to the nearest Congressional facilities.
So, my question is, who watches the watchers? Are these camera feeds
monitored 24/7/365? Are recordings made? If so, how long are the
recordings retained? Not surprisingly the City Paper did not find
the USCP Chief Terry Gainer terribly forthcoming about the details of
this project. Mr. Gainer seems to have learned well from his tenure with
the MPD. The MPD secretly monitored downtown areas, until the story
broke in the Wall Street Journal in 2002, as reporter Arthur
Delaney points out in the story.
The Capitol Police are largely unaccountable, certainly to the
Capitol Hill residents who will now be under the gaze of these cameras.
They are nominally accountable to the Congress and their direct
overseers, the Senate and House administration committees. Even so, some
congress members felt inadequately consulted about the spate of street
closures last August. Now there’s a surveillance incursion into a DC
neighborhood, without notification or consultation with the elected city
government, much less the affected residents.
The intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street has
historically been one of the most traveled in the entire DC metro area
-- the seventh most, including highway intersections, according to a Post
article many years ago. Incredibly, northbound traffic now must wait
before proceeding through that intersection while dedicated left-turn
signals allow left turns from both directions but no straight-ahead
movement. This would be fine if there were lanes dedicated for left
turns only. But invariably, in both directions, at least one of the
first four cars in the left lane does not desire to turn left, thus
screwing up the whole idea. The result is that traffic is no better
southbound than it was, and northbound it is a disaster, backed up for
many blocks for much of the day.
Could this be the work of the same lame thinkers who have installed
clocks at the intersections? I would be in favor of these clocks if they
weren’t in amber, thus giving you the impression from afar that you
need to hustle. And during rush hour, they will click down to some
number greater than 0, like 10, and suddenly flip to 0. While we’re
flogging the traffic guys, could someone explain the point of preventing
left turns from River onto Fessenden? All it means is people will turn
onto Ellicott instead. Does someone important live on Fessenden?
The Office of Planning’s Model for
Marilyn Simon, MJSimon524@yahoo.com
Ground was recently broken at the Washington Clinic, which the Office
of Planning cites as its first “inclusionary zoning” case, a planned
unit development with five luxury condominiums to be sold as
“affordable housing.” The Office of Planning stated that affordable
housing in future condominium PUDs should be modeled after the plan for
the Washington Clinic site. In that project, several one-bedroom and den
condominiums, each with a market value in excess of $600,000, will be
sold to lottery winners for less than $170,000 each. The qualifying
income is $51,750 for a family of three and $57,500 for a family of
four. Qualifying families of four can afford to rent existing apartments
for $1,437 a month. In fact, over 30 percent of the households near the
site had incomes of $50,000 or less. The lottery-winner that purchases
one of these $600,000 condominiums will pay approximately $1,437 each
month for the mortgage, taxes and condo fee.
The lottery winner only needs to qualify when applying. For example,
a third-year law student could qualify to purchase one of the affordable
units, and land a high-paying job the following year. There also is no
realistic means for enforcing other conditions, so that the affordable
units might easily be rented out at market rates, shared with other
rent-paying residents, or sold for a substantial profit. The Office of
Planning adopted this model, even though it was fully aware of all these
shortcomings. In exchange for providing this amenity, the developer was
granted bonus height and density, allowing a building more than twice
the size contemplated with existing zoning. With the bonus height and
density, an additional 50 condominiums, totaling $75 million, can be
sold. The bonus density is certain to have an impact on the
neighborhood. There are serious questions about whether the
infrastructure can support the increased density, as well as questions
about the impact of bonus densities on the scale and character of our
While the District has a goal of increasing the supply of affordable
housing, the Office of Planning’s policy of providing subsidized
luxury condominiums to a few households that can afford existing
apartments does nothing to advance this goal.
To the Rescue
Susan Ousley, slousley att ae oh ell dott comm
We’ve heard many lovely promises from Blue Cross Blue Shield that
they will be more friendly to the community where they make their
profit. Here’s one thing they could change: right now, pay DC
ambulances as participating providers — right now, FEMS ambulances are
paid as nonparticipating providers.
The DC Board of Elections and Ethics has completed its hearing on the
penalty phase of the Video Lottery Terminal Initiative of 2004 (the
slots initiative) petition circulation drive. The penalty hearing filled
seven full days of hearings from March 10 through 21. All the evidence
and testimony has been submitted, and the Board will make its decision
in due course. The slots proponents had essentially four arguments: 1)
that the BOEE had never found that there were any violations of the law
in circulating the petitions, and therefore it can assess no fine; 2)
that even if there were violations, nothing in the law makes an
initiative committee responsible for circulating petitions, so the
committee can’t be fined; 3) that even if the committee were
responsible for circulating petitions, it fulfilled that responsibility
by hiring a contractor to circulate the petitions, and therefore it isn’t
responsible if any violations occurred; and 4) that the only people whom
the Board can hold responsible for any violations are the individual DC
residents who falsely signed as circulators on petitions they didn’t
circulate, or who had forged signatures on their petitions, and so
There were two interesting revelations during the course of the
hearings. The first was that Pedro Alfonso, the DC businessman who
served as chairman of the slots initiative committee and who presented
himself as an investor in the project, was actually being paid $8,000 a
month for his services and -- unknown to his fellow committee members
— was going to get a $1,000,000 “success fee” if the initiative
passed and another $2,000,000 success fee if the casino got licensed. The
second was that the committee members have an indemnification agreement
with Robert Newell, the funder of the initiative, who paid the $100,000
penalty they were assessed by the BOEE last month, and who will pay any
penalty they will be assessed as a result of this hearing.
The same challengers who participated in last summer’s hearings,
DCWatch and Ronald Drake, also participated in the penalty hearings, and
they disputed all of those arguments, and argued for the initiative
committee’s responsibility to ensure that its petition was circulated
in a way that was consistent with DC law. Links to the legal papers that
were filed in the proceedings are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/election/init18.htm.
New Song: “Do You Get themail on Wednesdays
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
The menagerie of characters who show up in themail each week are
worth writing a song about. When I asked my imagination for help finding
someone to write a song, by imagination huffed, “Just do it yourself.
Write and record the song yourself.” Okay then, here is a QuickTime
video of the music video, “Do You Get themail on Wednesdays and
The duration of the song is about 20 minutes. The lyrics are posted
on the above blog, too. The file size is 153 megabytes. In order of
appearance, here is who shows up in the song: Gary Imhoff, Larry
Wissleberry, Annie McCormick, Ed Barron, Brad Hills, Sergeant Gwendolyn
Mapp, Sergeant Ray Danieli, Laurie Collins, Lea Adams, Sara Cormeny,
David Sobelsohn, Dorothy Brizill, Gabe Goldberg, Dorinda White, Brie
Hensold, Malcolm Wiseman, Timothy Cooper, Kristen Barden, Lois
Kirkpatrick, Erich Martel, Joe Libertelli, Charles Ogletree, Evelyn
Goodwin, Joan Eisenstodt, Wendy Blair, Ralph Blessing, Alexander M.
Padro, Peter McGee, Stephen Hosmer, Kathryn M. Sinzinger, Phil Greene,
Rae Kelley, Phil Shapiro, Barbara Conn, Scott Pomeroy, Susie Cambria,
Art Spitzer, Charles Stevenson.
This music video was created with friends of mine in the Washington
Apple Pi computer club (http://www.wap.org)
and Fairfax Public Access (http://www.fcac.org).
We used the free iMovie video software that comes bundled with Macintosh
computers. The budget for this music video was $4. (The price of a blank
mini DV tape.) Fair warning: any submissions you send to email@example.com
may be incorporated as lyrics in my next song. <grin> That said,
now go ahead and write some great lyrics.
Blogging on Urban Places
Richard Layman, firstname.lastname@example.org
In three blog entries in the March archive of my blog, http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com,
“Denver’s Delightful LoDo Area — A Lesson for Stadium District
Development;” “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Transit! San
Francisco’s PacBell Stadium;” and “Unforced Error: DC Officials
Bobble the Ball When it Comes to Transit, Urban Design and the New
Stadium,” I discuss transit and urban design issues about the new
baseball stadium that were brought to my attention by Ed Delaney in a
previous post in themail, as well as some responses that I received
after my post in themail about the design of the new stadium. Comments
Who provided the Post with the cartoon ran in “Close to
Home” in Sunday’s Post? It is clearly associated with the
Chester Finn letter. It didn’t support Finn’s comments. He wasn’t
talking about facilities or parking tickets. The cartoon perpetuates the
image of the District as run by clown-like incompetents. Finn’s letter
is saying that DCPS and the District is moving ahead with revising its
academic standards (a good thing according to Finn). However, some
unnamed “usual suspects” — outsiders, one has to assume, because
there is universal support for the new standards within the DC public
school community — are poised to stop the standards. In Finn’s
letter DCPS is doing right, yet in the cartoon they are shown as
DCPS is moving ahead with its academics standards independently and
at the speed it sees as necessary. Isn’t that we want? If so, why isn’t
the Post praising DCPS instead of implying that they are again
failing? Further, why is Finn permitted to get away with not naming the
usual suspects? If Finn supplied the cartoon, I would say your editors
are complicit in a “framing” exercise executed by Finn to maintain
the image of an incompetent DCPS. If Finn didn’t supply the cartoon,
what is the point? Why pose failure next to success? The cartoon will be
remembered longer than the efforts of DCPS to establish new standards.
Who wins by making DCPS look yet again incompetent?
Why Won’t the Washington Post Accept
Austin Kelly, austin at vanness.org
In November I tried submitting a question to a Post online
forum. The E-mail was rejected without stating a reason (although the
RFC’s that govern the net state that a reason should be provided and
list a large number of codes for particular rejection reasons). The
header indicated that I should contact postmaster for an explanation.
But E-mail to postmaster also bounced (with a note saying to contact
postmaster). I’ve pasted the rejections into online submission forms,
tried asking Rob Pegoraro in an online forum, and even forwarded the
E-mails to the ombudsman (from a different domain) who promised to
forward my question to tech support (that was in February). So far no
explanation as to why the Post won’t accept my E-mail. For what
it’s worth, I’ve always controlled the vanness.org domain, it has
never sent spam, and my E-mail provider is not in any spam blacklists
nor has it cropped up in any online spam discussions, as per Google
Ourmedia.org Citizen Journalism Site Launched
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
Do you know the way I’ve been sharing info about the growing
momentum of the citizen journalism movement? A huge step forward took
place on Monday of this week when the new web site Ourmedia.org
launched. This web site will host for free -- and forever -- any text,
audio, animations or video submitted by the public. Although citizen
journalism is the central focus, the site is intended as a central
repository for digital storytelling, freely distributable music,
documentaries, and any other kind of digital creative expression. Some
recognized names in the technology field are behind Ourmedia.org. The
site seems to have gotten swamped with visitors, so if you can’t reach
it, try again in a day or two.
I wonder who will be the first people to upload content to this site?
Are there any folks out there who might upload a civic-themed music
video, for instance? While New York and Los Angeles have a few creative
people, DC far outclasses them with the quality of creative talent we
have here in town. My bet is that the first civic-themed music video is
going to come from DC. We’re going to leave New York and LA in the
digital dust. We outclass them.
Real Property Taxes and Miscalculations
Austin Kelly, austin at vanness.org
In the last issue [themail, March 20] Matt Forman correctly notes the
difference between an assessment cap and a reduction in tax rates. With
a reduction in rates, people with slowly appreciating property see tax
reductions, and vice versa, while caps limit everyone’s increase. But
he calls the fall in tax for some people a “windfall” and says he
prefers caps. To each his own, but I’d rather see the person with the
huge appreciation “windfall” who now owns a much more valuable house
pay a little more, and the person with the slight appreciation
“windfall” get a reduction, with the goal of keeping total
collections about even. Makes sense to me that the people with the more
valuable houses pay more, regardless of whether the market overall is
booming or busting.
Property Tax Equity Proposal
Constance Maravell, a.k.a. Zinnia, firstname.lastname@example.org
How would the rest of you “wealthy” people feel if the increases
in property tax payments were capped at 5 percent but, when you sold
your house, you would have to pay back the difference between what you
actually paid and what you would have paid if you had paid the full
assessed value? When I attended the property tax hearings on Friday, I
learned that the abatement for poor seniors had to be paid back when the
house was sold. One group testifying pointed out that this was not fair
in light of the fact that others never had to pay back the differential.
The more I think about that issue, the more I think we should pay
back the city when we realize the stored value in our houses. We are
paying the increased assessments at a time when we actually have some
money with which to pay the assessment. That sort of arrangement does
not give anyone an unfair advantage. It gives current home owners some
measure of security about the rate of increases in their operating
expenses. Finally it gives the city a lot of extra revenue. What do the
rest of you think about this sort of an arrangement?
[Re: Rae Kelley, “Long-Term Parking,” themail, March 20] Leave
your keys with a neighbor and ask them to move your car the night before
the street cleaning day. When they go away next time, you’ll be glad
to do it for them. Works great for pet feeding/walking, too.
The District provides free long-term parking in neighborhoods
throughout the city: find a street which isn’t zoned for residential
parking. For example, try the 200 Block of D Street, SE. Generally, the
street is filled with cars with out of state registrations which use the
free long-term parking so they can avoid registering their cars in the
District (or perhaps they’ve gone on an extended trip), or for those
daily parkers (a.k.a. commuters) lucky enough to find a space on the
block not taken by these long-termers. Previously, I had some luck with
DPW in ticketing these cars as abandoned because they sat for weeks (and
some even months) without any movement. But these enforcement efforts
have seemed to ceased.
Gary: My answer to the last line of your article [themail, March 20,
“How likely is he to face us and ask for our votes again?”]: I dare
him to ask me!
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Anyone for a themail Get-Together?
Ted Knutson, Dcreporter@yahoo.com
Anyone interested in having a meeting of themail
National Building Museum Events, March 26, 28
Brie Hensold, email@example.com
Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW,
Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.
Saturday, March 26, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Origami City: construct an origami
city by making and decorating obelisks, skyscrapers, and box houses.
Coinciding with National Cherry Blossom Festival, this program
celebrates the traditional art of paper-folding (origami) and the art of
creating buildings. $2 per project. All ages. Drop-in program.
Monday, March 28, 6:30-8:00 p.m. With its design of the Freedom Tower
at the former World Trade Center site, the architecture firm Skidmore,
Owings & Merrill (SOM) is pioneering the use of new software
technology that enables architects to visualize their astonishing
creations. Carl Galioto, FAIA, partner-in-charge of SOM’s Technical
Group, will explain and illustrate how a new version of building
information modeling facilitates the design of this challenging project.
He will also discuss SOM’s long-term interest in this technology. This
lecture complements the exhibition Tools of the Imagination. $12 museum
members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Registration required.
The Fairfax County Public Library invites you to a free presentation
by Jack Valenti, former head of the Motion Picture Association of
America. The free event takes place Monday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. at
the Alden Theater of the McLean Community Center, located at 1234
Ingleside Avenue in McLean. Tickets will be available at the venue one
hour before the event; limit two tickets per person. For directions or
other information, call 703-790-0123. The event is cosponsored by the
Alden Theater; funding provided by the Fairfax County Public Library
Shaping the Future of the Hill East
Waterfront, April 6
Lisa Alfred, firstname.lastname@example.org
ANC 6B and the HillEast Waterfront Action Network will hold a
community forum for public/private development on Reservation 13 on
April 6, 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) at Payne Elementary School,
C Street, SE, between 14th and 15th Streets. Panel: Andrew Altman, Chief
Executive of the Anacostia Waterfront Development Corporation; a
representative from the General Services Administration (GSA) (invited),
and Beth Purcell, Hill East resident; moderated by Ken Jarboe, ANC 6B.
Washington Storytellers Theater presents the SpeakEasy Open Mic,
Sweet Dreams: Stories about Sleep, at HR-57 Center for the Preservation
of Jazz and Blues, 1610 14th Street, NW (between Corcoran & Q
Streets), on Tuesday, April 12, 8:00 p.m. Ticket price $5 (corkage: $3
per person); purchase at the door (doors open at 7:30 p.m.). Street
parking, Metro Red Line (Dupont) or Green Line (U Street/Cardoza). On
the first of each month, we will begin taking sign-ups for that month’s
Open Mic. Call the WST Office to reserve a space.
For most of us, sleep takes up fully one-third of our lives, yet what
do we really know about it? The stories we tell of our lives are nothing
compared to the stories we dream of our lives. We forget more stories
upon awakening each morning than we live through in a lifetime. Join us
at this month’s SpeakEasy as we delve into the worlds that unfold
beneath our eyelids every night with guest host Kelly Cresap and our
featured storytellers Noa Baum and Amy Saidman.
CLASSIFIEDS — WANTED
Need Old Photos of Mount Pleasant
Mara Cherkasky, email@example.com
Do you have old photos of your Mount Pleasant home (inside or out) or
any aspects of everyday life in Mount Pleasant?
Research is underway for a Heritage Trail that will tell the story of
Mount Pleasant on a series of signs placed at various points around the
neighborhood. Each of the signs will include some text, plus photos and
other graphics. For example, a sign at Bancroft Elementary School would
explain why the school was built and when, and maybe show a class photo
from the 1930s and one from the 1960s, or one of kids entering the
building. But we haven’t found those photos yet! Could you possibly
have one in your old albums?
The Mount Pleasant Heritage Trail Committee, which is working with
Historic Mount Pleasant on this project, would greatly appreciate any
help you can provide. If you have any photos — or information — that
you think might be of interest to us, please call Mara Cherkasky at
986-0858 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re also interviewing people who’ve lived in the neighborhood for
a long time, or used to live in the neighborhood. If you fit that
description or know someone who does, please let me know.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
I have 35 bags (each 50 lbs.) of Mr. Granite Step 1 Base Layer --
Rock Solid Foundation System left over from a project. It’s a type of
gravel that is not decorative and would be used as a foundation layer
for a project.
I’m willing to accept any reasonable cash offer for them as long as
you can load them into your truck and haul them away. Please only make
an offer if you can pick up the entire load (all 35 bags). They are
located in a garage less than one mile from Georgetown Hospital. Please
provide a phone number with your offer.
CLASSIFIEDS — SERVICES
eBay Coaching Offered
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
Are you itching to try your hand at selling things on eBay? This past
month I’ve been coaching a couple of people on how eBay works and I’m
finding the coaching a lot of fun. It’s not difficult selling stuff on
eBay, but it is helpful if someone shows you the ropes. I charge $25 for
a 2-hour “get me started” on eBay workshop at your home. The
workshop includes an orientation to Picasa 2 (free photo software for
Windows) or iPhoto (free photo software for Macs.)
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Does anyone have experience with an appliance-repair person who can
troubleshoot rather than just replacing lots of parts? I have a
four-year old GE gas stove with electric igniters. The stovetop now
requires a match , and neither the oven nor broiler works. GE tells me
each is separate, and an electrician has ruled out a house electrical
problem. Seems to me unlikely that three igniters would need replacing
at once, especially in a relatively new stove. There may be grease
somewhere. Would love to find an honest individual troubleshooter,
rather than a big company. Suggestions welcome.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
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